Saturday, October 17, 2009

Creating for the Holidays

If you are planning on making this a "handmade" holiday season (creating gifts for loved ones rather than purchasing -- or maybe shopping handmade to support independent business), it's time to get started! In fact, for some it may be way past time to get started.

I first "caught" the bug to make gifts when I learned how to sew at about the age of 14. My dad was in graduate school, my mother was working full time -- and money was scarce. I knew my parents were not going to be able to purchase many gifts that year. I was babysitting in the neighborhood and was a latch-key kid. Perfect combination! -- a little money and time on my hands. That Christmas I made my dad and my two little brothers each a set of pajamas, my mother a three-piece suit, my little sister a nightgown, my grandmothers each a "duster" (light housecoat), and my grandfathers each a chef's apron with "chef" hand-embroidered in red on the bibs. I set myself up to be -- "sewing superwoman!!!"

From there on out, rather than stop to think about how much time I had on my hands back then to enable that sewing marathon, I would make decisions to make it a handmade Christmas far too late to enjoy the process.  I found myself up all hours of the night, feverishly stitching -- and there were many times some poor family member received a box with fabric, a pattern and a promise to create inside. My husband eventually got me the little sign you see in the picture, "Caution, Crisis in Progress!" that now sits in my sewing room.

I have learned a few things since then. If you have a deep desire to make something for several people on your list, how do you do it without it becoming the crisis I described? We have a very large family now (five of our six sons are married -- with four grandchildren in the mix). If I were going to make something for each person, I would calculate how much time each gift might take, add an hour to each project (for cushion),  then count back that many weeks/months to give myself a starting point. Because "life happens" (sickness, emergencies, etc.), it is wise to back the entire process up by at least another 2 weeks. Now, look at what you see. Is it realistic? What can you cut? For example, maybe instead of knitting a sweater, you could knit a scarf or hat. Be sure you are also taking into account your need for free time!

There is still time to make this a handmade Christmas or holiday season! If you realize it is too late to make something yourself -- use these tools as an opportunity to plan ahead for next year. Then, take advantage of the many wonderful handmade gifts available for sale by other talented artisans. Etsy shops are a great place to start! I have listed a number of handmade gifts for men $10 and under on my other blog, and you can read about our own family's plan for making this a simpler Christmas there.


  1. Great advice! I always wait too long and kick myself for not starting sooner. I have started this year and if I can only keep to the "plan" maybe I can avert "a crisis in progress"!

  2. Great article!! That's the story of my life... too little, too late. If only once I could actually make a PLAN!! lol

  3. I love hearing how you plan your holiday gift giving projects. You've thought of things I never have. Thanks for the new ideas.